Sunday, April 30, 2006

More Massive Wordage Attached to the BH#66

As you might have surmised, I did a whole load of writing in the previous post which means it will be only barebone quizzes for the rest of the week.

This is because I will now magically transform into a hermit devoted not to the contemplation of God upon a steep pillar or in a damp, isolated cave, but to the all-consuming revision of the quiz questions I have spent a massive part of the last decade writing in my bedroom which resembles a dark and damp cave; albeit one with curtains the colour of pink grapefruit.

Those questions took the best of me these past nine years, so it's about time they paid back the fantastic favour I did by giving the blighters the gift of LIFE. It's, I admit, a kind of Dr Frankenstein thing: the old creator-monster dynamic.

This is because I'm thinking I should actually take a look at them rather than writing more and more. I should look back unlike Dylan in the movies. The Q&A setting process - that is writing hundreds of questions per day in the run-up to tourney day - is marginally successful, but it is far from efficient. I have to try a different tack.

Because consolidation is the BUZZ word *capitals used to denote flippancy* and will ensure I do not write out the same question for the fourth time without realising it. Those are the ones that simply fall through the ever-widening gaps in my memory. They are the Q&A's I can never have.

Previously, I had tried to record myself reading out questions on tape and did fill up three or four such cassettes with my trivial dronings (I hate the way my voice sounds on tape and radio). But I soon lost them at about the same time I started to believe that using a tape cassette recorder to do so was like cycling a penny farthing down Regent's Street at rush hour. Tapes are ancient history, man. Unless, of course, it is being used for journalist stuff.

Therefore, casting my eyes over the chosen info with uncommon concentration is my ploy for now.

Well, not really

I say all that and put myself forward as some steadfast guru of self-discipline. Actually, what I mean is:

"I really want to do something different in preparation for this week's tournament and will quarantine myself in the hope that isolation will focus my concentration on the task at hand. However, reality is a different beast and such plans are inevitably incinerated in the fierce flames of laziness and indecision. I cannot even trust myself: who knows the whys and wherefores of my own heart? This contrary bugger in the centre of my chest does me no favours, apart from the keeping me alive bit.

Distractions are everywhere. There's the Bank Holiday for starters. Friends believe that no-one should be left indoors, so they must come out and experience the wonder of a spring that doesn't even look like it's bothered to turn up yet. What a tease it is, like someone trying on a tiresome burlesque act prolonged beyond toleration.

The weather-beaten people of our nation are sick of it. We crave the lilting and pleasant warmth a brilliant sunshiney day can envelope you in and soothe your troubles away. For when the sun takes its summer residence in the sky I want to catch all of its beams with my face in a symbolic act that will finally wake me up from the winter's mental hibernation.

At this time of year, I often have a hankering to watch some Morris dancers. Simply because I want to ask them detailed questions about the phallic symbolism that such folk traditions still employ. That's what I call interesting. Otherwise, I will spend the time reading all the magazines and newspapers I have left unread (in a totally uninterested way). When that arduous labour is completed I will probably stare at anything but those chunky quiz files, those bloody chunky quiz files with their impossible-to-learn information.

After that I may well drop The O-bomb on The Windmill pub quiz on Tuesday night, an opportunity I will use to apologise to my fellow team-mates and elucidate the reasons why these useful things called books were more enticing than revelling in Brighton on the Sabbath.

Then, there are DVDs to watch on my laptop. These will kill the time I have set aside for my grand plan with consummate ease. I really want to see Michele Haneke's Code Unknown, simply because its cover has a soaked and worrisome looking Juliette Binoche splashing in the water. Not that I fancy her or anything (when it comes to French actresses I have always preferred Emmanuelle Beart, man-voiced Virginie Ledoyen and the getting on a bit Isabelle Adjani).

CU's cover just makes it look really interesting and I missed Hidden in the cinema (despite having these really strange chat with this fortysomething dude at a media launch party where he basically tried to connect with his fellow man, i.e. me, by talking in-depth about foreign films that he didn't even like, including Hidden, which he had seen three times, and I started nattering on about the Austrian bitterness and cold that all of Haneke's films are cursed with. In fact, I haven't seen any of them and just talked film journo bollocks. A childhood spent reading movie review books cover-to-cover will invest in you all the formulas, dismissive film buff adjectives and pithy comment styles you need to structure an authentic-sounding bluff). Plus, Code Unknown isa very good name too.

It would be all so much easier if I was recovering from surgery. The bedrest would at least curtail my wanderlust. Why couldn't they have scheduled my operations better? Does this NHS know nothing of friends' weddings and revision vows? No wonder Patricia "secret Aussie" Hewitt gets barracked and booed everywhere she goes. She's running a band of bloody drongos.

So, in summing up what I believe will happen by Thursday morn:
I predict I will complete about 15% of the work I aimed to do, mainly due to my short attention span. I will spend much more money than I envisaged. I will drink lager in good but not poisonous quantities. Time spent at home will be consumed mainly by the internet and checking each of my 200 bookmarks at least twice each day, and from time to time I will drift ninja-stylee into the lounge to see whatever piece of Hollywood mainstream nothingness my brother has decided to watch; previous instances in this routine include the viewing of Lake Placid, Scary Movie 3, Batman Forever and Good Will Hunting, even though I have seen at least two of those movies three times and the others twice already (maybe, I cannot resist all those Hollywood production values no matter what terrible plot that they may get wasted on).

Watching any film is possibly preferable to doing an extensive ocular wade through Benet's Reader encyclopedia. Even if the only filmic option has Adam Sandler screeching like a castrated weasel and pretending to be big and tough enough to be an NHL quarterback. (Me joke there: I have a soft sport for old Ads. Happy Gilmore and Punch Drunk Love are perfectly formed and massively entertaining movies, while all of Steve Buscemi's cameo in Billy Madison is worth seeing for such poignant moments as his crossing Billy off his hit-list and his climactic shooting of that guy from The West Wing, who happens to be the real-life hubbie of the mother in Malcolm in the Middle).

Furthermore, having said all that about how my personal history and peculiar peccadiloes will almost influence the next week's course in depressingly familiar fashion, I predict that by setting my sights so low and set down in so many words, or more accurately, these very words, in the perpetual war fought between my good intentions and my aimless mind that reverse-pyschology could force me to spend quality time with the stuff I always wanted to.

In fact, it will work so well that I will forget to bathe the entire week and will smell like the dingiest, most camel-dung splattered souk in all the Middle East, with the added delicate suggestion from people that have the misfortune to cross my path that I reek. The crippling stench will be augmented by my using mounds of fag ash as woad and all the ashtrays I can muster for some breast plates. Once I realise my chance to fight in the Battle of Falkirk with William Wallace has long since I passed and can finally comprehend that cabin fever has turned me into a one-man version of the Donner Party, I will have a bath, open my tangerine dream coloured curtains and slip back into the world of normality, like a battle-scarred soldier returning from another senseless and pointless conflict.

Finally, I will still be depressed about Wayne Rooney's broken foot, despite the benefit of diminishing England's expectations and taking the heat off everyone.

Still, it has to be said: Lord help us all, and most of all Wayne, whose betrayal of Everton may be the reason for the divine retribution visited him yesterday. Karma, as Earl Hickey says at least three times in every single episode of My Name is Earl. Surely, he would have run through the teenaged Middlesbrough team like a sleek terrifying samurai sword slicing effortlessly through a block of Flora margarine if he had stuck with the toffees, instead of having one of his fighting feet murderlised by title rivals. But no, Mr Alex "The Man with a Hairdryer for a Mouth" offered to be his surrogate daddy and now a crucial crunch match has done for him. That'll teach him and his hunger for the big stage. Now he is karma's bitch until his foot finally heals. Amen."

There is, believe me, some truth in there. If you can be bothered to pan for the gold.

Dressing Gown Reflection
Sadly, other serious factors may impinge on the utopian plan. For one, my Grady Tripp bathrobe is in London where I last used it as a makeshift oven mitt. The revision will have to be carried out in plain clothes, not the "thinking" dressing gown. When available garment allows me to shamble and drag myself around the house like a grizzled, blocked novelist, and bat around the pressing dilemma of whether such a brilliant and funny and shambolic writer should stick with Frances McDormand's literature-guzzling paragon of intelligent female wiles or go for Katie Holmes for the sole reason she wears provocative red cowboy boots. This FranKat selection dilemma, however, will take considerable time.

While weighing up the options, I will add thousands of more uninspiring words to his works-in-progress (in my case, my blog and my book) both of which have no end in sight and, perhaps, both need horse illustrations and detailed genealogical histories. Woe is the man who wears that bathrobe. For he can never think straight and always thinks too much.

My final choice, however, would be Katie because Francis "Polo Mint Impression Chin" McDormand has a creepy dimple in her chin that I am convinced was gouged by vicious big cat or some other wild and gouging animal. It ain't her fault, but it is a bit of a turn-off. Katie, on the other hand, has boots. The boots are the deciding factor. Such special footwear say a lot of things apart from being made for walking all over you, unlike the McDormand with the Crater Chin. It says only one thing albeit in a loud and obvious way: "I am one freaky chin-dimple. I'm quite creepy aren't I?"

This is what comes of loving Wonder Boys in an unhealthily excessive way. I loved both the book and film in very different ways, which I can't really say about any other novel and film adaptation I have read. The balance is always tipped in favour of the other, e.g. Jurassic Park. Loved the book, thought the film was empty and too short. The dinosaurs also seemed far more impressive in my imagine.

Going in the opposite direction, I just finished reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Despite some thoughtful and funny touches, the novel was all over the place. The film was much better, probably because it had far more interest in a linear narrative and the Hungarian revolution of 1956.

The two Wonder Boys are each perfect in their different ways. I would say I wish I was Grady Tripp, but I don't, and despite his evidently exciting life, yen for the mind-blowing ganja and attitude to life. I really want to be Michael Chabon. Correction: I want his brilliant career.

Non-Sequitur Overload
Although if Michelle Williams, Katie's Dawson's Creek co-star, were to muscle her way into the choices I would have no hestitation in picking her for her occasionally blond mane and spiky wit. See her in Me Without You, one of those British films that no one knew ever existed because it didn't stand a chance in the cinemas. Those bastard distributors saw no discernible hook: no Cockney gangsters or saucy Women's Institute members, certainly, no big explosions to bring in the action crowd and a suicidal decision not to cast Hugh Grant. It is all too depressing when such a film flies under the radar. So, might I now implore you to find a copy because it deserves a huge fanbase. Oh, what's the plot? Basically, it's the portrayal of the trials and tribulations that two English best friends ('er with a food English accent and Anna Friel) undergo from the early teenage to dinner party-hosting adult maturity.

Plus, it was partly shot in Brighton. See the seafront. Look at the roads and buildings. Wave your fists at the screen as a way of signalling your disapproval of the long walk from The Concorde 2 to Brighton train station. Get someone unacquainted with the city to sit beside you as you point out the places you used as an impromptu urinal and utter the immortal line: "I've been there". Again and again.

Similar immortal lines found further up the contact chain, moving from filmed location to the actual stars, include: "I saw him" and "I met him in a pub. He's a complete dick in real life". Only when you say you have met Jamie Oliver in a supermarket you actually say the opposite: "Met him in Sainsbury's. Really good bloke". And people don't believe you. All they see are the constant visual sightings of his engorged lingua in the press, and such media exposure of the big, fat slobber tongue lolling around in his mouth is enough to overwhelm your own empirical and physical evidence. Insanity, if ever there was proof for it.

1 Which Czech composer (1902-1988) was the author of the polka Skoda lasky ("Roll Out the Barrel") also known as the Beer Barrel Polka?
2 Which Austrian composer (1825-1899) is known especially for his waltz The Blue Danube?
3 What radio satellite navigation system is the Russian counterpart to the US's GPS system and the EU's embryonic Galileo positioning system?
4 What term refers to the pumping speed multiplied by the gas pressure at the inlet of a vacuum pump and is measured in units such as torr-litres?
5 What term describes evaporation and sublimation into a vacuum?
6 Which English Romantic landscape painter, who was trained by Francois Louis Thomas Francia in English watercolour painting, is known for such works as Normandy (c.1823) and the architectural series Restes et Fragmens, and died of TB aged only 26 in 1828?
7 Which Frenchman's first major painting The Barque of Dante was accepted by the Paris Salon in 1822?
8 What is the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius?
9 Once called Port Florence, what port city in the west of the country is the third largest city in Kenya with a population of 322,724 (1999 census)?
10 The Blekinge stones are four early Elder Futhark rune-stones found in which country?
11 Which knighted Scottish composer is best known for A Solway Symphony (1909), a work on his native Galloway, and the Three Border Ballads, Grey Galloway (1908), The Demon Lover (1906/7) and Coronach (1906)?
12 What was the Morgenthau Plan supposed to do, but failed due to Soviet intervention?
13 The first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, who was known for such works as The Dancing Girl of Izu, Snow Country, Thousand Cranes and The House of Sleeping Beauties?
14 What kind of creatures are mound-builders or megapodes?
15 Gelawdewos succeeded his father Lebna Dengel as Emperor of which country in 1540?
16 The author of the 1563 collection Eglogs, Epytaphes, and Sonettes, which 16th century English poet is famous in Australia for the line "I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die", as it was used by PM Robert Menzies during a tour of the Queen in 1963?
17 Published in 1557, what two-word name is usually given to Songes and Sonettes, written by the rhyght honorable Lorde Henry Haward late Earle of Surrey and other, the first printed anthology of English poetry?
18 Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton composed the earlest English tragedy, which was performed before Elizabeth I in the Inner Temple on January 18, 1561. What was it called?
19 Rising in the Adamawa Plateau of northern Cameroon, the Benue River is the major tributary of which river?
20 At which Japanese airport did Soviet pilot Viktor Belenko land a MiG-25 Foxbat in an attempt to defect to the West on September 6, 1976?
21 What computer and video games company was established by Trip Hawkins in 1982 and has its HQ in Redwood City, California?
22 The Lysa Hora and Zamkova Hills in Kiev are famed sites for what witchcraft-related locations, where witches gathered for their Sabbath?
23 Formed in 1901, what is the oldest established rugby union league in the world?
24 What organic compound and aromatic hydrocarbon is also called vinyl benzene and cinnamene?
25 Located on a large natural harbour on the NW coast, what small hamlet on the Isle of Wight was devastated in a French raid in 1377 and was given two parliamentary seats by Elizabeth I, an act that led to it becoming one of the most notorious rotten boroughs?
26 In which counties are the following English National Nature Reserves a) Barton Hills b) Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses c) Gordano valley d) Studland and Godlingston Heath e) Barnack Hills & Holes f) Goss Moor
27 Which female singer made her album debut with Footprints in 2002?
28 What NFL team were previously known as the Houston Oilers?
29 Born on May 19,1890, who was originally named Nguyen Sinh Cung?
30 What TKO Software computer games series includes Breakthrough (2003) and Pacific Assault (2004)?
31 In classical music theory what term describes a set of methods for composing and analysing works of music based on structuring those works around parameterization of part of music and has types called total, integral and multiple?
32 Which Italian composer and Communist party member, who died in 1990, is known for such works as Epitaffio per Federico Garcia Lorca (1952-3), La victoire de Guernica (1954), the opera Intolleranza (1960) and the work, based on letters of victims of wartime oppression, Il canto sospeso (1956) that brought him international fame?
33 Named from the adjective for the General Council that introduced it, what term is used for mass celebrated in Latin in accordance with the successive forms of Roman Missal from its December 5, 1570 promulgation by Pope Pius V?
34 Touted as the first 64-bit system, what Atari video game console was introduced in 1993 and was such a commercial failure that it prompted the company to leave the hardware business?
35 The Irminger, the Norway and the Canary are branches of what ocean current?

Answers to BH#65
1 St Cajetan 2 Alexius II 3 Don John of Austria 4 Rudolph Goclenius or Rudolph Gockel 5 Matteo Perez d'Aleccio 6 Hugh Capet 7 Cheltenham 8 The ecliptic 9 Parnassus 10 Cumae 11 The Ten Thousand 12 Epictetus 13 Belguim (named after Pauwel Kwak) 14 Red and white blood cells and platelets 15 Hock (from hockamore from Hochheim) 16 Hock 17 Amsterdam 18 Sukkot 19 Merle Travis 20 King-in-Council or Queen-in-Council 21 A white staff 22 Lord Williams of Mostyn 23 Attorney General for England and Wales 24 Director of Public Prosecutions 25 Captain Britain 26 Alfie 27 Clan tartans 28 Blackberry, raspberry 29 Rione (pl.rioni) 30 Lego

The Biggest Post I Will Probably Ever Write: A Really Long Essay On The Body

(And if you make it through to the end I will either give you a prize or run away in embarrassment)

Reading the Body and Soul supplement of The Times yesterday, I alighted upon two articles by John Naish (great health writer and from personal experience a ceaseless and energetic journalist who makes you feel like a wimp with his impressive workload) and the nutritionist Jane Clarke (look into her glistening eyes and I swear they hypnotise you into eating blueberries and other healthy knick-knacks).

Their dual purpose was to help schoolkids prepare in the best possible fashion for the coming exam season. Of course, I saw it differently. Exams do not matter. Quizzes matter. They really matter. The kids will be alright for they are the future. Us quizzers were the future and now need all the help we can get.

Thus, I have given some thought to adapting such techniques as "Stay Healthy" and "Psych Yourself Up" and dietary advice ("Hold the chocolate") to my own preparation for next week's Yorkshire GP and the coming world championship, because the truth is, sitting down in a room where silence reigns and people have gathered to write answers they either tear or ease from their memories to a number of questions in a set time period is an exam.

Yes, quizzers, or at least those who don't think the written form is an abomination, enjoy doing tests. We just call them quizzes, rather than competitive examinationing or something far less zesty. Cosmetic reasons, you see. And we enjoy doing them because it shows us how good we are in comparison to others and our past selves. The wonder of finding out how we do, the moment before we see our scores and everyone else's is one of those pure emotions that is impossible to replicate in other areas of my life.

It's not the kind of anticipation you get from wondering who is going to get whacked in an episode of The Sopranos or who will bite the dust on the next installment of Lost, possibly because you will have already looked up the plot synopses on the internet; I mean the unique anticipation you get from something that is actually happening to you. Then, in the aftermath, you want to do another quiz and do even better. But will you get better? Are you really at the peak of your performance and come to a place where your mental and physical faculties are in perfect alignment? Probably not.

It makes logical sense to follow such fitness, dietary and stress-management advice in order to get the best out of ourselves. The only difference between an exam and a quiz being that we wilfully trapise hundreds of miles across the country to do it and will do so for the forseeable future, whilst always having the option of getting completely rat-arsed at the same time.

For we are sado-masochists at heart, especially when we are tussling with our expectations (I see my own as a manic-depressive: high and cackling like a loon one minute, lower than Hades the next, someday I'll get it the medication it needs). The added frisson of competition and rivalry grows with time over a number of years, but you do grow to love that too.

This is some adults' idea of fun. Okay, it is my idea of fun and I know many who share it. Years from now, a few of us may be sitting in a circle faced by similarly dejected or dangerous looking individuals and when summoned to stand up will have to say: "I'm John W and I am a quizaholic" and tell the assembled wretches how doing well in The Eagle pub quiz one night led to serial tournament attendance and finally bankruptcy due to the phone bills caused by severe addiction to ITV Play 25 (I reckon there will at least be 3,000 phone-in quiz channels in 20 years time, so that ITV Play channel number may be a gross underestimate). That is the future. And it was all because he couldn't resist seeing a question without answering it.

We have long left behind the insidious beardy invigilators of the university exam room behind, only to embrace a slight variation on the form in our increasing maturity. There is a lesson in there about the joy of learning or autodidactism, but it is probably getting lost in the midst of my grammatical incoherency, but when you think about it, it is kinda doollaly with a liberal sprinkling of nuts on top.

Yet if you want to do better, and there cannot be a quizzer alive who does not want to improve themselves because of the unique and innate quality of combined curiosity and competitiveness they all share, you must change my lifestyle or introduce new habits and tricks to give ourselves a further advantage. If, for example, you enjoy anything fried with chips, like eggs, sausages or sliced hippo, you know you are feeding your brain crap that will sooner send it to the land of the dead than enable it to conjure up the year in which the Battle of Pavia took place. You reap the wind, you harvest a load of sluggish rubbish, if anything at all. It's the classic effiiciency equation. If I could remember what that was, though it feels right.

Of course, we hear stories about the caffeinising and oxygenating things quizzers do to get their brains acting in a more lively and productive fashion: the old instant coffee in the Coke can shortly before quiz time trick and the rapid chewing of gum before the Fifteen-to-One Grand Final shimmy, for instance (my reaction to the latter being: I wish I had some Airwaves right now). Not that anyone will admit to such adopting such measures, possibly because it is effort of a kind different to eating an encyclopedia (metaphorically speaking). It doesn't seem like the Corinthian thing to do. In fact, it's almost like taking drugs. Yuk.

I have to say that I take omega-3 and vitamin supplements because not only does it convince me that unified with that half-tub of Haagen-Dasz I have just slurped down, it will result in a balanced diet, but I have also probably been tricked into thinking my brain would expand beyond its already preternaturally large dimensions. I also eat salmon for the same reason, though its healthy properties may be slighly negated by the smotherings of mustard dill sauce, cream cheese and other soft and clumpy dairy products I cover it in. And tomorrow, I will probably read another health news article debunking the effectiveness of eating marine life and which instead says humans can eat grass after all with amazing mental-enhancing after effects. I will then be found on the nearest pristine lawn making like a moo-cow at dinnertime.

For a quick energy boost provided by the classic sugar rush, I have eaten chocolate bars whilst engaged in the act of writing down answers. They made me feel queasy so I didn't carry on with it. I have even bought by mail order a couple of bags of the herb lemon balm to shovel down because I had read in the "reputable" press (them again, tsk) that it improved the short-term memory. I firmly believed for as long as it took me to part with £20 at least, that excess herbage would yield certain success. I may also have been unemployed at the time, which explains a lot of things.

This led me to conduct a control experiment to go with it involving thousands of trivia questions, but such an exploration of the herb's properties was curtailed because it tasted only slightly less pungent than a gobful of pot pourri with a drier, cracked texture that felt like you were munching some spidery twigs. The scientist in me was defeated by the bloke who has to actually swallow down the stuff. My lemon balm consumption ended before I had made about a seventh of the way into the first huge bag. The bulging bags of shattered, arid leaves remain hidden somewhere behind the anchovy essence and cinnamon sticks in my darkest and deepest kitchen cabinet. You are welcome to the sacks of memory goodness if you ever happen to drop by my LA home.

Didn't Rilke Say Summat About Changing A Particular Thing?
So I'm thinking it has to be the lifestyle that provokes the change for the good and upturn in brain power. It's just a pity I may need psychiatric counselling in order to radically alter it and that I don't have an unforgiving but fair reality TV presenter to shame me into running up hills and eat more fibre. Also, I am confused enough by the recommendations of office workers taking an hour a day to exercise. Does walking to the newsagents every day count for any of that time? Not even five minutes? Or do I have to get into a pair of tracksuit bottoms and start huffing and puffing around the urban environs I call "the hood" for every one of the sixty minutes?

Don't get me started on the gym. Great idea. If nobody else came along. It's quite obvious that everybody else who goes to a gym will be fitter and stronger than you, as well as look like a potential cast member for a new series of Gladiators if such a TV show was happening tomorrow. Such bronzed and buffed specimens would make your squishy, blobby self feel so small in stature that you could take a bath in a thimble and leave ample room for Thumbelina to slip in.

Your friends who have got the identical gym membership will do the same, unfortunately not in your company, where a unified front could deflect the slings and arrows of inadequacy. Both of you will also wonder why they ponied up so much money for the next year when in reality the most exercise they will be doing is regularly diving in between closing London Underground tube doors or running like a maniac in the masses of people who are forever damned never to catch their chosen train.

Getting fit in solitude and the dark of the night away from invasive and analytical eyes seems to be the only way forward for me. Or I could always drive a cab, shave my hair into a perky little mohican and single out Ken Livingstone for an open air assassination with all the guns I spend my time stroking like Bond villain cats when they are not kept in the gleaming arsenal I keep concealed under my bed. Oh, and I would take all my first dates to one of the many Soho discount bookstore where we would choose from a range of special DVDs. La la... the movie-influenced daydreams seem to be taking over again.

But first you have to clear the obstacles and clean house before you make a fresh start. And I have absolutely no doubt that if I were to dump the cigarettes and the Coke and then went jogging into around the city free of substance addiction, then my quiz performances would improve, just by dint of my body working better without its little, ugly addictions and enabling me to have a clear head where the pleasure centres are caressed by exercise-catalysed endorphins.

It's getting rid of the things that is the heinously difficult part. Because they are not so much obstacles as life-support machines you have become dependent on over the last decade. Add to that the working up of the "botheration" and fostering of sheer willpower that was never there before. You can't even make a silk purse out of the sow's ear because there isn't any auricular material to begin working with. So it appears that you have to become a different person, who has to relinquish many of life's old corrosive delights, like the Domino's ritual I have recently instituted. It's very simple. This basically involves me feeling utterly ravenous and then thinking of hot, spitting cheese filling my mouth and ordering a medium Pepperoni Passion and wolfing it down before the heat vapours cease climbing upward in pleasing cloud-like flumes.

All that will have to go, he says with all the brittle conviction of monkey Dubya vowing to quell the Iraqi insurgeny for ever and for all time. Thank God, I hardly drink enough to warrant me worrying about the brain-rotting effects of alcohol. And yet... Extracting the nicotine (my word, I have a fag hanging from my mouth and I didn't even notice, and, amazing, as if by the hand of Paul Daniels, yet another dangles wedged loosely between my lips whilst I am revising this very passage ... c'est incroyable), the caffeine and the carb and fat overloads, I indulge in feels painful even when I haven't quit the bastards yet (excuse my language, but they take vast amounts of my money and make me feel worse, ergo: bastards, the lot of them, a very shower of illegitimate scoundrels). The prospect can almost be equated to my having live organ transplant without anaesthetic. All those things are still a part of me, like rum 'n' raisin ice cream with the raisins left in (yeucch ... I detest the wrinkly buggers).

I used to run, you know. I ran for miles around this seaside town. I did the Eastbourne Fun Run when I was 13. When you are 13-years-old ten miles seems like a horrendous cross country run quadrupled and strung out into a death-like ordeal. Your only compensation is the comforting tarmac of the road rather than the hilly bumps and their hidden deposits of massed rabbit droppings. I remember my legs having the consistency of jelly and my heart trying to emulate the BPM in Moby's Thousand. I may be exaggerating somewhat, however. The experience was made slightly better by beating my dad in a sprint finish. He had stayed behind to keep me company and I ended up opening a can of whoop-ass on him in the home strait. That learned him good and proper, hee hee, and just how sharper than a serpent's tooth is it to have a someone like me turning the last 200m into a silly test of who was paying more attention to the proximity of the finishing line? Razor sharp, I reckon.

Then something drastically went wrong. I stopped running and apparently started to watch more Sky television. I used to wonder why people had constant cravings for cancerous smoke and legal stimulants that make you tetchy and irritable, but that was before I realised the seductive allure of the short-term fix. That was before I had to get through eight-hour sandwich-making shifts at Butlins and watched dozens of people smoke as if it was their only ambition in life and they were achieving it three times every fifteen minute-break. And, still, I can faintly remember exactly a fit body imbues us all with: a sense of security and power. It gives us a further layer of protection against the elements and when you believe in such things your mind can make you feel even stronger

I can write that, and know that it sounds like a distant and empty echo of some fitness fanatic's motivational spiel. The truth is that it's as addicts across the stimulant spectrum, from alcohol to smack, live week to week, if not day to day. Next month is a century from now, next year a practical millennium. Time bends and recedes and takes on all shapes, but its rate of passage will always surprise us when we feel the consequences of time spent and wasted finally becomes apparent.

The long term is inconceivable, much like the age of 40 is to anyone in their 20s or under. The reality of consciousness is so overwhelming that the we cannot tolerate the thought of it ending, and when the quality inevitably declines and degrades we have the temerity to be shocked. An utterly human tendency. Living for the now is the most basic of all habits and is the one that informs everything we do. But, you know, you will get to that mortal finishing line one day in the race every one of us will complete sooner or later, why not make it better for yourself right now. Then I say, where's my red lighter gone; this butt is turning into mulchy cotton wool. This mother needs smoking and my nervous system nicotinising pronto.

But what I can't feel (I can certainly perceive them like some faraway halcyon dream happening to somebody else) is the pyschological weight or the claw of ill-health that is gripping me and which I really do know will be lifted and released once I get myself into a fitness regime. Regime is a bad word, admittedly. All those Maoist and Pol Pot connotations. It should be something like a fitness festival (no, that is absolute rubbish). And getting into one: sounds like I am trying to into the upper echeleons of a Communist party hierarchy or maybe The Garrick club. I hate militaristic comparisons, which could be anothe reason why I stopped calling non-quizzers, CIVILIANS.

That claw's hold is total but you learn to live with it by forgetting just how great it feels to have full lung capacity and a throat that is not coated in the kind of phlegm that glows in the dark. The smoker can make it go away just by refusing another cigarette. This is obvious. Other thoughts come into play and creep in like an overpowering noxious gas: but I am sure I can get away with one more cigarette in the short term. Oh, I will quit but what about another five hundred for all time's sake? It won't matter if I give up now rather than in a month's time, in the long term. I can get away with it for a little bit more. Such specious reasoning acts against itself. Your little time extensions escalate and the same things are said, and you are still a smoker. (Can you see that this is a kind of cathartic writing exercise in which I write myself out of smoking. Could work, I suppose)

At the moment, every time I come to the end of a 20-packet I feel it could be the moment for the clean-ish break. I have given up twice for 18 months since the age of 16, and man, did I make a song and dance about it, and man, did the people who I told I had quit give me lectures that were no doubt in the "cruel to be kind" vein, but which were, simply speaking, bloody annoying. Instead the health warning patter roused the defiant rebel in me. Though, admittedly, the instigator of this mini-revolt had the worst cause in the history of causes that included such nobel aims as universal suffrage and the abolition of slavery. Who cares about the fate of dissident writers stuck in prison for their beliefs, I'm gonna smoke more AND inhale even more deeply because it will show everyone I can head straight for my cemetery plot far faster before and not care one jot.

When my will was broken, smashed and obliterated, both times it took place at a party when my drunkenness had run over my willpower like a juggernaut would a badger (I'm thinking the insect analogy wouldn't survive the crevices offered by the tire tracks of such a mechanical beast), I could feel the smoke take hold in my chest like a long absent resident, sighing and putting its feet up in my lungs and feeding my brain with thoughts about how cool I looked with a Lucky Strike hanging from my lips. Other suggestions included you must have something to do with your hands and what are you going to do during the ten-minute wait for a train? Don't tell me you're going to read that ragged Homes & Property supplement? No, reach into the packet, apply the lighter flame, inhale and relax (always funny how fags are supposed to "relax" people when every smoker can plainly feel their heart is palpitating with rage and has suddenly decided it wants to burst out of your chest and run away).

Neither did it help watching, during the time of my first relapse at a sixth form party, Jean-Paul Belmondo chain cigarettes in Jean-Luc Godard films in a way that made him look like the coolest guy in film history. Never mind that he was playing characters who basically embraced their self-destruction while not giving even a hint of a toss. Giving a toss is for people who care. Belmondo was so past caring that if he saw a line of ducks crossing a road, he would just drive through them. AS IF THEY NEVER EXISTED. Caring would render him deaf to the bloodcurdling quacks of the squished duckies who had thought that their coordination and goshed darned sweetness was enough to make every Frenchman stop their car and look at them with a feeling stuck somewhere between overwhelming warmth and awe.

His bristling and anarchic attitude helped me adapt in a mere few seconds to that of filling out classic archetype they call The Smoker, the man who smokes with the fag hanging from the mouth and who exhales so very unexpectedly through the nostrils. I now was well-placed to ignore the "long-term" and smoke like a gun-toting Godardian anti-hero at least until Millennium Eve. Then I would reconsider. As for the here and then, if I was to smoke and therefore look cool, surely some accommodating female minds contained so serendipitously in the heads of some Anna Karina and Jean Seberg lookalikes would soon flock to me. Well, I knew the smoking makes me look cool bit made sense at the time and could be considered the re-tipping point. What it really made me look like was a bloody smoker. Smack my naive self on the forehead with a resounding "Duh!", but that's what the desire for cool leads you to. You know it is a senseless thing, yet you still pursuit with the odd visit to a trendy bar, a pricey t-shirt purchase or esoteric music purchase. Happiness and cool are not actually dependent on each other, although you are lulled into thinking that way at your stupidest moments.

You know it leads nowhere. The perennial problem with the notion of cool and the fads and images associated with it, is that it is so ephemeral and fleeting in nature and what could eventually become "so last year" at the drop of a hat is dependent on the absence of true logic. It's insane.

Take dead movie stars being caught in a defining image that acts like preserving amber for the multitude of posters printed for them today. Hero-worshippers prefer it that way. Especially when the likes of James Dean decide to turn their beloved Porsche Spyders into death cars and therefore ensure his fans won't be seeing him age disgracefully in the pages of celeb magazines. Death is the perfect ending that makes for fantastic cool; just look to one Shotgun-sucking Kurt. For Dean, death was the icing on the cake and ensured his permanence in the star firmament. He died young and stayed young. Because, let's be honest, the man in the street can barely name more than three films that the old time Hollywood stars featured in. Dean didn't have to do more than three films. He was set and he did just enough to make for a couple of decent quiz questions.

The pursuit of cool comes to nothing (I'm actually telling myself rather than you at this point). You'll end up like the protagonist in the song "Losing My Edge" and, hey man, that is so uncool. I'll stop using that particular four-letter word now.

But the problem with Belmondo's characters and all regal and elegant screen smokers is that celluloid ensures their eternal life. They are not real, but the viewer has to live life in all its terrible, constant 24/7 glory. Sometimes, we live with the consequences of how we react to what we see on screen: life imitating art in its most direct and dumbest way. He smokes, I like him = I smoke, people might like me. Looking back I could have just smoked for the duration of a film or as long as the actual character does and quit at the point of his death. I could have just left it in the cinema. That would make a lot more sense that copying the bad habits of some Godard cipher for the notion of proving that man cannot live within the bounds of Gaullist society and must choose nihilistic death, but not before taking some gamine lovely along for the mad ride. That's my one-minute reading of the sketchy plot and historical contextual details I can remember from A Bout de Souffle ... or was it Pierrot Le Fou?

Nowadays I don't think about smoking in those terms. I did get over it. I tend more towards the "Baby, I don't care" as embodied in Robert Mitchum's lackadaisical sucker in Build My Gallows High, because, if you think about it, not caring about anything frees you from everything, even though this includes the human race and even ourselves. It frees you to mess yourself up and smoke your lungs until they bloom with tumours.

Petty little addictions instill us with the careless attitude and cynicism that prevents us from taking full control of our destinies. Added up and they make for a mighty persuasive force. If they are removed we even glimpse an almost terrifying vision of emptiness. What am I going to do instead, you wonder? Pilates? Gosh, no. Instead we accept the steady accumulation of petty but ultimately telling crimes that we have inflicted on ourselves. We can even be defiant, because we are convinced it was our own choice. We wanted it this way. My way. It seems we are happy simply with the illusion of steering own path, despite it being a hackneyed and well-trodden one by millions of human beings before you. Everyone who makes a choice that seems capable of wrecking our emotional equilibrium and those of the people around us, wants to think they are some sort of pioneer, when the truth is they are a walking cliche.

I never used to be like this. The naivety was slowly but surely stripped away. I blame the 1990s. If you told me when I was 14-years-old that I would be like those smelly students who liked smoking one off in the showers and then soaking the place in so many varieties of Lynx deoderant that it made the place a potential inferno should they light up in the next ten minutes, I would have gone: "SHUT UP! You're a liar. Will I do that to myself for years on end?" Seeing the tears breaking from my eyes, I would nod my head and mention the coming demons of KFC variety meals and university binge-drinking and the resultant mini-paunch.

There are small mercies, even as I fetch my Marlboro Mediums from my bag. Since the health guilt often takes hold of me while I am in a supermarket, I am starting to enjoy having M&S's Classic Fruit Salads more often than not. I feel so much better eating one, slightly more alive, perhaps detoxed, for about ten minutes, which is when I remember it cost me £3.09. I had never believed fresh fruit to taste any good unless slavered in double cream and soft, brown sugar. Now I realise you have to go for variety and lots of it all the time. You just have to get used to it, and start to love and nurture the ever so slightly beatific sensation it temporarily imbues your body with.

The question is: will all this self-pitying soul-searching help me kick at least one of the demon tripartite habits? Maybe. I think in wistful ways of the wonder of running and sweating like a pig and feeling the warm sensation of accomplishment fill every cell in my body. Even if I painfully recall the groups of schoolkids who used to point at me when I was jogging and proceeded to make exaggerated donkey sounds in imitation of my desperate yet (it has to be said) athletic panting.

I will certainly feed myself better. Pork products are not conducive to optimum brain performance, even if the only time optimum brain performance can only be achieved if the said organ was removed from my head and put in a hydroponic-style jar where it wouldn't have to worry about the many nefarious ways the rest of the body was trying to sabotage it.

Neither is grilled cheese. Lovely, grilled cheese ... Ben Gunn knew what fed the heart and furred the arteries like a microscopic version of The Blob (1988 version). Then I have to consider my lust for mayonnaise, both plain and garlic. The Light version just ain't the same (just like Diet Coke is for people I can never ever understand) and it does provide fabulous chicken lubrication.

I have to face facts: if my body was a temple, then it probably looks like a succession of Roman, Visigothic and Vandal invaders have laid waste to it time and time again, with even worse waves of barbarians poised to come and do their filthy, wrecking worst, or best. And I let them all in. Opened the doors and let them have full use of the facilities. The temple is still standing, but the structural damage is starting to tell. One day, it will surely turn into the kind of ruins that tourists do not visit, because there just ain't that much to see.

At least on tournament days (here we go), I don't fill up on greasy muck in the morning, instead opting for fruit and some freshly squeezed juice or even (yes, sad to admit) a Slimfast shake, although it may be more to do with the old belief that a slightly empty and therefore hungry stomach helps you quiz better by improving your concentration. If I were to eat a balti before a tourney, well, the consequences are too dire to speak of.

There is also the belief that I don't want to make the first meal of the day an ordeal, as I do on normal days where I think about cooking something healthy but instead get a Tesco's ready meal spag bol and a grilled bacon sandwich AND some Dublin Mudslide Ben and Jerry's. Then again, I do get up in the afternoon, so maybe I feel guilty about not having that first important blah blah meal of the day. Cereal and toast are complete strangers to me. But then so, is working in a office (I used to do what? Get up at 9am and sit at a desk all day? You crazy.)

But, apart from eating a few unsalted cashew nuts, I have made one solid resolution for this week in the run up to the Normanton GP: more water. H20. The stuff of life. So I'm going to temporarily turn into a fish. According to Jane Clarke this is what it does (albeit in children, but considering my mental age, what the hey): "[Those] who drink plenty of water find it easier to concentrate, retain information, and do mental arithemetic, and also get fewer headaches". Perfect. I'm in. Now where's that length of hosepipe?

(I'm still smoking by the way. My middle and index fingers really need the company at the moment. However, I have learned something new and interesting in the very last hour. From reading my brother's copy of The Daily Sport, sometimes the esteemed publication calls female breasts "top bollocks". Journalism never ceases to amaze me. The DS hacks have to be geniuses to invent that kind of terminology. I salute them at the same time as wanting to wash my eyes out for reading it.)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

BH #65 ... the return of the # key

(Nope, my Powerbook lacks an obvious # key. The geniuses at Apple have come up way short in this regard. People who set BH quizzes are sorely disappointed and will not resort to the beautifully designed manuals.)

Nothing to do with the pain Wayne's broken metatarsal has unleashed in Englishmen's hearts

Wait a minute, stop. Hammer time. Been working most of the night and I almost forgot to update the blog. Nevertheless, the blog always calls with its silent siren in my brain which gets louder and louder until I yield to Blogger, so it does get updated eventually. Out of guilt.

I had been updating my CV for the first time in three years (sorry for this career talk) and it might be overdoing it a bit to have one that is three pages. I seem to remember career advisers warning me about having one that was more than two as if any more would result in its immediate flinging into the Human Resources hearth, but I've already chucked out the six months of work placements, my pre-university history and whole rafts of cool-looking stuff. Well, stuff that made me feel a tinsy bit proud all those years ago. But a CV is not about sentiment, it's about "look at me, prancing like a peacock with the finery of my experience, take me on. NOW. You cannot resist etc". And, you know what, it appears that I actually did some work in the intervening period. I have to emphasise the "some" though; I feel I could have done a lot more. Never mind.

Quiz does bare its weird head in it, of course. A friend who recently applied to get a new job, sprayed it like fertilising muck all over his CV because, quite frankly, his quiz achievements merited it. Because it is one way of making your head pop up above the masses of normals (sorry, is that offensive, but far less offensive than the old patronising term I formerly used: CIVILIANS). So I've got almost half a page of the trivial stuff on it. I couldn't resist. Quiz forces my hand yet again. It's like a darn imp on my shoulder, forever bending my ear and telling me to seal myself up in a room and learn facts. Possibly, whilst doing an impersonation of Howard Hughes in the milk bottle years.

As the aforementioned friend bellowed, while thumping a pub table: "Why not!" Yeah, WHY NOT? WTFN? So there. It is there in black and white with cardinal positions and names of places. Even my appearance on One-to-Win. Actually, I should take that off. Bloody irrelevant isn't it and depressing to remember. It's all bloody irrelevant. Sophistry comes to the fore again. Must stick to people's expectations. Must be a normal for normality's sake.

(But what about Wayne? And why is the metatarsal the only bone in the human body that seems to have been created for the sole purpose of destroying the hopes and dreams of England's football fans? We're looking at the heavens for answers and don't tell me Jermaine Defoe or that a now classic Arsenal goes to Europe five-man midfield are the answers to our prayers, because believe me all of us are now praying at this very minute and for the next six weeks. I know what we should do. Hang, draw, quarter and burn effigies of Paulo Ferreira. That will make us all feel so much better.)

1 Born Gaetano dei Conti di Tiene in 1480, which Catholic saint founded the order of the Clerics Regular, better known as the Theatines?
2 Who is the current Metropolitan and Patriarch of Moscow, who began his tenure in 1990?
3 Nicknamed Jeromin, which illegitimate son of burgher's daughter Barbara Blomberg and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and military leader had his most famous victory at Lepanto in 1571?
4 Which German scholastic philosopher (1547-1628) is credited with the invention of the terms psychology (1590) and ontology (1613)?
5 Also known as Matteo da Lecce, which Italian painter studied under Michelangelo whilst working at the Sistine Chapel and is perhaps best known for 13 frescoes showing the events of the great siege of Malta by the Turks in 1565 at the Hall of St Michael and St George in the Grandmaster's Palace at Valletta?
6 Who was crowned King of France at Noyon, Picardie on July 3, 987, the first of the Capetian dynasty to rule the country?
7 Which English racecourse is home of The Centaur, an auditorium capable of seating over 2,000 people for conferences and 4,000 standing for concerts?
8 What name is given to the apparent path of the Sun traced out along the sky in the course of a year?
9 The Delphic Sybil gave prophecies in the sacred precinct of Apollo at Delphi, located on the slopes of what mountain?
10 Taking its name from the Greek for "wave", what ancient Greek settlement lying to the NW of Naples was the site of the most famous Sibyl?
11 What group of mainly Greek mercenary units was drawn up by Cyrus the Younger to try and wrest the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II, their march to the Battle of Cunaxa (where Cyrus was killed) and back to Greece being recorded by Xenophon in The Anabasis?
12 Known for his main work The Discourses, which Greek Stoic philosopher (c.55-c.135) lived most of his life in Rome until his exile to Nicopolis in NW Greece where he died and had a name meaning "acquired" in Greek?
13 Named after the brewer who first made it in 1791, the beer Kwak comes from which country?
14 The medical condition pancyopenia is a reduction of the number of what in the body?
15 What is the English word for German wine, short for a now obsolete word named after a town on the Main that was the site of a traditional vineyard site in the Rheingau region where wine shipments to England used to originate for many years?
16 What other name is given to the gambrel, a tarsal joint of such digitigrade quadrupeds as the dog or horse?
17 Vincent Huson was the name given to a serial killer who rampaged through an area of which European capital in 1978?
18 The Four Species, Lulav (a frond of the date palm tree), hadass (myrtle), aravah (willow) and etrog (citron) are used in the daily prayer services during what Jewish holiday?
19 Famously covered by Tennesse Ernie Ford in 1955, who wrote the coalminer's lament Sixteen Tons in 1945 and based it on his own family's experience in the mines of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky?
20 What name is given to the sovereign when acting on the advice of the Privy Council?
21 What object does the Lord High Treasurer bear as their symbol of office?
22 Which Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council suddenly died in office in 2003?
23 William de Boneville became the first person to hold which official post in 1277?
24 Ken Macdonald QC was appointed to what post in November 2003?
25 Created by Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe and first appearing in 1976, physics student Brian Braddock was recruited after a motorcycle accident by Merlyn and his daughter, the goddess Roma, to become which superhero?
26 What is the name of comic character Billy Whizz's younger and slower brother?
27 James Logan's 1831 work Scottish Gael was a list of what?
28 The hybrid loganberry is produced by crossing what two fruits?
29 From the Latin for 'region', what word has been used since the Middle Ages to name districts of central Rome according to the political divisions of that time?
30 What company makes the Bionicle line of toys for 7-16-year-olds that was launched in 2000?

Answers to BH #64
1 The Stewardesses 2 Hyundai 3 Port Arthur 4 Japan 5 French Foreign Legion 6 Transformer 7 Interstitial art 8 Daewoo 9 Weihenstephan 10 James Gregory 11 Bristol 12 Alexander Blok 13 Anastacia 14 Sir William Blake Richmond 15 Order of the Bath 16 The Band Wagon 17 Denmark 18 Hmong 19 Newman 20 Chevaline 21 James Monroe 22 Viktor Astafiyev 23 Dr Bonham's Case 24 The Battle of the River Plate 25 HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles

And finally, the answers to BH #62
(NB. There was a typo for #61 answers, which said #62. I'll amend when I get round to sprucing this place up)
1 Peter the Great 2 The Rump 3 Claude Bernard 4 Pierre Trudeau 5 Norway 6 Hu Jintao 7 Bolivia 8 Vietnam 9 Ben Gurion Airport 10 China and Taiwan 11 Zebu 12 Gaur 13 Magnolia 14 Christ of St John of the Cross 15 Optics 16 Cecil Rhodes 17 De Beers 18 Vaal river 19 Greensboro 20 System-on-a-chip 21 Occipital ridge 22 Cytoplasm 23 Chmielnicki Rebellion or Khmelnytskyi Uprising 24 The Deluge 25 National Union of Railwaymen and National Union of Seamen 26 Tony Woodley 27 Astral projection 28 Madagascar 29 The Trachtenberg System 30 Montenegro (in Podgorica) 31 Bruno Pontecorvo 32 Cerdon 33 Swiss-made Light Armoured Vehicle or tank 34 Richard Bass 35 Muhlberg

Friday, April 28, 2006

Blah blah BH no.64 ... the witty headlines well has dried up

Oi, Pi calm down. Sorry, the chinchilla is making like a combination of Javier Sotomayor and Asafa Powell. Pi is a legend, however, and should not be fed ham (why did you do it Robin, and you're a vegetarian, tsk).

That Previous Query
On to business: One billion rupees is at the time of writing equal to £12,207,103.67, which truth be told, ain't bad for a TV show jackpot.

Missing the Buzzer Time
Masoquizm is now on May 20 meaning that I cannot attend on account of being at ATP. I had a moment of quiet devastation, but have now recovered and am looking forward to future buzzer quizzes. I miss them so. But think of me when you are answering toss-ups on American literature. And do not confuse the legendary likes of the Dread Pirate Roberts with such historical upstarts as Blackbeard.

I am considering going all the way to Novi Sad (in Serbia!) to the Exit Festival between July 6 and 9. Therefore do not make the terrible mistake of organising a quiz tourney that weekend. I will certainly regret it. Though I will certainly not regret going to Serbia. A castle, Franz Ferdinand, Pet Shop Boys and Billy Idol and unreconstructed greasy metalheads, possibly, neo-Nazis. I'm looking forward to it already.

Goodbye My Beautiful Books
June 3 is the World Quizzing Championship. With just over a month ago, this means I am about to swap the pleasure of reading fiction for the gruesome toil of reading reference books and question files for a few antisocial weeks. It is all in aid of a glorious cause. I love competition and when it is global, well, who could resist locking horns with the best.

However, once I did put down Q & A I was going to say that that book was the last, then I picked up The Cadence of Grass by Thomas McGuane and read the first 20 pages. I couldn't help myself. It is a hard habit to give up due to the conscious act of switching my brain into revision and absorption mode, and McGuane has become one of my most famous authors; one of the reasons being his ability to pull out some hilarious, biting gem of description or wit. I may leave it at 20 pages until June. Who knows? It is a mystery I will soon solve, apparently.

1 Directed by Allan Silliphant, what 1969 soft-porn movie is the most profitable 3-D film in history having grossed $27 million on a $100,000 budget?
2 Chung Mong Koo has been arrested on charges of embezzling over $106 million. He is head of which motor company?
3 At which popular tourist town in Tasmania did a massacre take place in which a lone gunman killed 35 in 1996?
4 Which country became an independent state once again with 1952's Treaty of San Francisco?
5 To whom or what did Edith Piaf dedicate her recording of the song Non, je ne regrette rien?
6 What electrical device moves energy from one circuit to another by magnetic coupling with no moving parts?
7 From the Latin for "between spaces", what term was first coined in 1990s to refer to any work of art whose basic nature falls between, rather than within, the familiar boundaries of accepted genres or media, making it difficult to easily catergoris within a single artistic discipline?
8 A former club of the "Bald Beckenbauer" and Southampton player Chris Marsden, the football club Busan I'Park was founded in 1983 by what corporation?
9 Giving its name to the beer, what part of the city of Freising north of Munich is site of the oldest brewery in the world at the Benedictine abbey that was founded in 725?
10 Which American character actor is best known for playing the McCarthy-like Senator Joseph Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate and the loudmouthed Inspector Luger in the TV show Barney Miller?
11 Horfield Wood has a historical reputation for being a haunt of thieves and vagrants. Near which English city is it found?
12 Sometimes compared to WB Yeats, which Russian poet first gained fame with Verses About a Beautiful Lady, a cycle of poetry he dedicated to his wife, Lyuba Mendelyeva, the daughter of the chemist?
13 Known by her first name, which US pop singer has the names Lyn Newkirk?
14 Which knighted English painter and decorator (1842-1921) is known for such works as A Procession in Honour of Bacchus and An Audience at Athens?
15 What order of chivalry was founded by George I on May 18, 1725?
16 Directed by Vincente Minnelli, what 1953 MGM musical comedy starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse popularised the Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz song That's Entertainment and also featured Dancing in the Dark, Triplets and Girl Hunt Ballet?
17 Maersk Air is a low-fare airline based in which country?
18 The Secret Army was a force of 30,000 men trained by the CIA that was made up of which tribesmen?
19 Which Seinfeld character had the first name Paul, although the series creators never actually revealed the information in an episode?
20 Certainly started, what name was given to the secret project to upgrade the British Polaris missile system?
21 Which US president's presidency was marked by a disappearance of partisan politics after the politically charged War of 1812 and came to be known as the Era of Good Feelings?
22 Seriously wounded after being conscripted into the Soviet army in 1942, which Russian writer is known for such works as The Snow is Melting (1958), Theft (1966), Czar Fish (1975) and Sad Detective (1986)?
23 What medically-related legal case of 1610 saw Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, asset the supemacy of common law in England?
24 Called Pursuit of the Graf Spee in the US, what 1956 Powell and Pressburger film portrayed a 1939 naval battle?
25 Which three Royal Navy cruisers were involved in that battle?

Answers to BH no. 63
1 Chinchillas 2 1776ft 3 Clara Furse 4 Recursive grammar 5 Dahab 6 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 7 1926 8 Sultana 9 Pergamon 10 SA Andree 11 Afghanistan 12 Jus sanguinis 13 Santeria 14 Juche 15 Vietnam 16 Tenrikyo or Tenri 17 Thailand 18 Augustus Julliard 19 Sir Colin Davis 20 Tannhauser 21 1748 22 Bibliography 23 Ludovico Ariosto 24 Matteo Maria Boiardo 25 Diana Wynne Jones 26 Vientiane 27 Hong Kong 28 Wallpaper group 29 World Wrestling Entertainment Inc (WWE), previously the WWF 30 Through-the-night bicycle race

A Book Review

Q. What did Nobel Laureate Rabrindanath Tagore call "a teardrop on the cheek of time"?

Quiz-related fiction, a small but existent genre, is dominated by David Nicholls's Starter for Ten, a horrible recipe of concocted and obvious cliches, e.g. the hero has his way with the beautiful girl of his dreams but ends up with the mouthy one who he is really so much better suited to. I hated it. Even putting aside the University Challenge qualification system faux-pas shag-ups.

It was the spec for a film, to star James McEvoy I believe, who is far from the spotty social incapable that the book envisages (or maybe that was me). The show, the sacred and wonderful UC, was just a Macguffin for the Working Title-style love story. Did I not like that.

Looking at Vikas Swarup's Q&A, I felt a kind of Pavlovian reflex. Another bad novel that uses a quiz show conceit to play out a story about a poor, lovable lad trying to find his way in the world. I recoiled and I dismissed it.

Yet I did read it. I really had no choice. And, indeed, it did use the conceit of How Will Win a Billion to play out the colourful, oh my it's colourful, life story of a poor 18-year-old Indian waiter.

But this was different. Setting it in an alien culture did it a lot of favours.

It tells you something about the police and the justice system in this country that the fuzz aren't allowed to stick chilli-powder smothered devices up suspect's jacksies (or do they?). But this happens to our hero within a few pages because that is how the Indians do things. And at least Maximum City prepared me for it, along with practically everything to do with life in India (a brilliant book, if it does flag towards the end with the story of a rich Jain businessman who gives everything up to disperse his family and go on a spiritual journey after having every hair on his head plucked out).

Initially, I had thought it was a rich-to-poor fairy tale dressed in modern pop culture clothing and I still do, even if there was patronising guff about the difference between people's sphere's of knowledge: quiz and normal people's know-how versus that of the mean streets. For these are mean, dirty and unforgiving streets. Ram never quite escapes it and in the end, his aim is not to.

The prose irked me on occasion. In Maximum City, there is the Western-modulated prose influenced by years of reading the New Yorker that makes Swarup's words seem clunky and over-cooked at times. For example:

" I feel as though an oxyacetylene torch has pierced my brain". You what?

"I squeal with delight". Heroes don't squeal. They never squeal.

And he talks of a martial artist who who gives his "opponents a licking". Licking? LICKING? Porn stars and pet dogs lick. Bruce Lee kicks the living crap out of those who cross him.

But you do get over that. Eventually. Indian writers tend to write in such ways, and you can't really mark them down for their peculiar writing proclivities.

Q&A takes the old quiz comment "how do you know that" to its logical and fictional extreme. He knows the answers because of the unbelievable twists and turns of his short life.

Ram answers each of the 12 questions that makes its way to the billion rupee jackpot by relating how meeting a cricket-loving hitman, an aging and suicidal Bollywood actress, a 17-year-old prostitute who lives in the red light district of Agra, a nameless railway-robbing dacoit, a Fagin-like gangmaster who maims his charges to make them more profitable beggars all gave him the answers. He knows nothing else, not even who the president of the USA or what the currency of France is. His street smarts and unnatural good luck (despite all the tragedies that befall him) ultimately make for a just and huge reward.

At the start I was worried that it was just one long chain of stories involving his and his friend Salim's attempts to avoid buggery by the retinue of adult predators that litter the pages, but after three such stories (yes, even deviant Catholic priests make it into the mix), it did swerve away from worries about arse-protection. But maybe that's what life for orphans is all about in the land of the Peacock throne (joking...).

Swarup is a canny fellow for using the game show drama of WWTBAM to write his book, having asked himself: "Why not tap into the global phenomenon of the syndicated televisual quiz show?" He was also inspired by a certain army major, for if they couldn't believe such a man of high standing (snicker ... military men ain't that respected here ... they're all killers and upper class twats aren't they?) then what would happen if a poverty-stricken teenager won the big prize? People wouldn't believe it.

(I was thinking that if the same was asked of me, I would say, Q.1 Read it in a book Q.2 Saw it on UC Q.3 Saw it on Fifteen-to-One Q.4 Read it in an encyclopedia, and so on and so forth. Real life ain't that exciting. A coal-mining analogy comes to mind)

In fact, I'm surprised a lot of other writers haven't picked up on the fictional possibilities, although I believe that Mitchell Symons has in a book called The Lot.

In effect, Q&A is a book made up of a dozen stand-alone short stories taking in the whole, sordid and wonderful panoply of modern Indian life and a lot of references to chapattis. It is about those who have to survive, and those who often don't, in the murky filth at the bottom of the food chain, and the age-old fiction hallmarks of 'nothing is what it seems', 'everything goes wrong but gets better, won't it?'

Ram could have cried a lot less. His lacrimal glands were working overtime all the time. He weeps like a big baby, but, it has to be said, with good yet relentless reason.

My final thoughts? It's a good read, nothing more. The twists at the end make for a surprising dramatic undercurrent, with one coming after the other, and there's nothing wrong with twists you can't see coming (even if you feel you should have seen them coming like any good student of movies like Seven or The Sixth Sense - I knew I should have kept the mysterious, nameless man who likes burning women's breasts with his cigarettes.) Entertainment gives us coincidences because we love them so.

I am also minded to say that the production company is as bent as a £2 note. Not at all like Celador, who I have been told are above suspicion due to their squeaky clean practices and are therefore worthy of extreme praise when being compared to other shady TV makers.

If you want to know what the dozen questions are that have to be answered by our hero, well let's just say, they are utterly reasonable. None made me want to fling the book across the room, then stamp on it and set it on fire. None at all.

Wait a minute, how much is a billion rupees worth? I still have no idea.

A. The Taj Mahal

(This is my 100th post. I am knackered. This blog is an insatiable monster)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

BH no. 63 ... yes, the quizzes still keep coming

Now I would give you the answers to the 62nd quiz, but as I may have explained before, I am unable to access the pre-written quizzes and therefore the answers, and I wouldn't want to give you the rotten and damaged fruits of recall from my brain. After all, I am the person who thought for a few weeks, or at least long enough to do me grievous mental pain, that Z in the phonetic alphabet stood for zebra.

So more questions, while the answers will have to wait. Until possibly tomorrow.

In the Meantime
Tonight I have been setting questions for the "Doing it for the Kids" pub quiz at the Auberge bar (opposite London Bridge station) on May 10 in aid of the charity Kids Company. Rounds and rounds of GK, Lit, Entertainment, Nostalgia and Kids's Stuff, to be compered by none other than Mr CJ de Mooi (yes, this CJ de Mooi, he who does Eggheads on BBC2). A bona fide TV personality no less.

Since the aim of the evening is to get bums on seats and hands into pockets and coming out again with fistfuls of banknotes, anyone of you readers who do fancy the chance to win Premiership tickets, some rather nice plonk or similar beautifully bourgeois prizes are welcome to come and get hit by another dose of my question-setting powers. They have been written for the normals, lest you worry that I will be unleashing more questions on pre-Socratic philosophers and French chemists. What would be the point, he says before feeling the undercurrent of latent sadism overcome him and his typing hands. It is for charity, remember. All monies will go to a good cause. And it will be FUN. FUN. FUN. I swear.

I will be there and drinking alcohol and chaining the cancer sticks in the darkest corner, probably. Yes, I can see the ugly image that conjures up in your mind, but don't worry, I do actually hope to talk to people and won't be doing my best impression of Oscar the Grouch, even though he is one of my true heroes. And forget what I said about charity quiz events using the phrase "pub quiz" in their names, because when it comes down to it, I'm a right bloody hypocrite sometimes.

1 Viscachas are rodents that belong to which family of mammals?
2 The centrepiece of the rebuilding effort for the World Trade Centre, the Freedom Tower is how many feet tall?
3 Who is the head of the London Stock Exchange?
4 Noam Chomsky is known in the field of linguistics for the long-believed hypothesis that humans are the only organism able to comprehend what form of grammar?
5 What Egyptian seaside resort has been the recent target of bombings in which 24 people have been killed?
6 The alias Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh is believed by some to be the real name of which terrorist?
7 In what year was the BBC granted its first Royal Charter?
8 Which steamboat on the river Mississippi was destroyed in an explosion on April 27, 1865, killing 1,700 passengers?
9 Attalus I or Soter, meaning "Saviour", ruled what Greek city-state in what is now Turkey from 241BCE to 197BCE?
10 The first Swedish balloonist, which man led an ill-fated Arctic balloon expedition in 1897 that led to all three members perishing?
11 The Logar is a river and valley of what Asian country?
12 What two-word Latin term denotes the right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognised to any individual born to a parent who is a national or citizen of that state?
13 What is the most widely known name of Lukumi ("friends" in Yoruba) or Regla de Ocha, the set of related religious systems that fuse Catholic beliefs with traditional Yoruba beliefs?
14 Not seen as a religion by adherents, who view it as secular and revisionist, what name is given to the political ideology of the Workers Party of Korea, the ruling party of North Korea?
15 Begun in 1926, the religion Cao Dai is practiced in what country?
16 What religion of Shinto origin with some Buddhist influence was founded by the female peasant Nakayama Miki, who underwent revelatory experiences from 1838 and is known as Oyasama, literally "Honoured Mother", by her followers?
17 In which country are there administrative subdivisions known as amphoe, translated usually as district, which are further divided into tambon?
18 Which textile merchant gave his name to the music school founded in 1905 and located at Fifth Avenue and 12th Street in New York?
19 The first Englishman to conduct at the Bayreuth festival, who studied the clarinet at the Royal College of Music where he was barred from conducting lessons owing to his lack of ability, although this did not prevent him from forming the Kalmar Orchestra with fellow students?
20 As featured in a three-act opera by Richard Wagner, which figure of German legend found the Venusburg or subterranean home of Venus and left it to travel to Rome where he asked Pope Urban IV if it was possible to absolve him of his sins, the legate replying that it was just as impossible for his staff to blossom, which it duly did?
21 In what year of the 18th century was Pompeii rediscovered?
22 Named after the Italian-Briton who plied his trade in the 19th century, the Panizzi lectures are an annual series of lectures given on what subject?
23 Who wrote the epic poem Orlando Furioso in 1516?
24 Orlando Furioso was a gionta or continuation of whose work Orlando Innamorato which was first published in 1495?
25 Which British writer of fantasy novels for children and adults is known for her Christomanci series, which concerns nine-lived enchanters in a series of connected worlds who are responsible for preventing the misuse of magic?
26 Sri Sattanak or Sisattanak is a former name of what Asian capital?
27 The flower of the evergreen tree the Bauhinia blakeana is a unique endemic flower that is special of which place's ecosystem and which can be seen on its flag on a red background?
28 Also called the plane crystallographic group, what term describes the mathematical concept to classify repetitive designs on two-dimensional surfaces, based on symmetries in the pattern? Study of such patterns reveal that exactly 17 different types can occur.
29 Established in 1952, what integrated media, sports and entertainment company was previously known as Titan Sports, Inc. before two subsequent name changes?
30 Running approxiametly 120 miles from London Fields park to its eponymous location on the Suffolk coast, what kind of race is the annual Dunwich Dynamo?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Yadda Yadda Yadda and More Chaff-Ridden Chat

Wow, I almost clattered into famous lesbitarian author Sarah Waters by Haymarket about an hour ago. She was speedy and she was carrying a Waterstones bag. This must mean she hates all independent bookshops and wishes them to die in the inferno of conglomerate and multinational dominance. For shame, Miss Waters. For shame. We know you sell too much to care, but the little men and women of the booktrade still need you.

What was truly scary was realising she was wearing the same black ensemble as on the front page of her official website. She must have the same imagination deficient stylist as Simon Cowell.

What I've Watched (I Thought I'd Mention It Anyway)
I was returning from seeing Junebug: a deadpan American indie film which has Ryan from The O.C with an appalling moustache and Will Oldham talking in a normal voice. Yes, that be I See a Darkness Will, who sounded like a New York waiter. But maybe that's the magic of movies and he really does like thoughts of perversion and death, while he preaches firestone and brimstone sermons with breath that smells of moonshine. For a second I thought he was the wee fella who looks like a ginger scrotum from that Burt Reynolds sitcom Evening Shade.

So if you see one film this year, go see The Squid and The Whale.

Yet I digress.

It had funny bits and a dollop of tragedy. It was good. Amy Adams was a firecracker. Which means she was loud, annoying and painful. Brilliant acting.

I also saw the Silver Jews on Monday: a deadpan American indie act with David Berman in his greasy black beard and a country band, one of whom was not Will Oldham who he had recorded his last album with.

It had funny bits (especially the hooker fart gag) and a dollop of Berman's aptitude for tragedy, whether real or imagined. The man has possibly the most evocative voice in American music, what with its motel and cigarette and bourbon tones. It was their 14th gig ever. He said this three times. We got the message. But there was something a bit weird. It was too celebratory and joyous. People were laughing like nutters for chrissakes! There should have been liquer bottles smashed over heads and a gunfight. And, perhaps, a lot of pitiful screaming. And the sound of the howling wind smashing against something. like a dead horse. Or, at least, there should have been a mix of the happiness and the sorrow. But audience members were smiling like freaking Smilex victims. That will not do.

I did tout it. Hanging around the internet cafe by La Scala until the prices drop like dresses in a place where ladies drop their dresses on a regular basis, does pay dividends.

Don't worry, I am going to write about quizzing. Right about now, my funk soul brothers.

End of Season
Thus with Stainer's stirring words the 2005-6 season endeth. Weird, I still keep thinking it's the year 2005. (I think: I can't believe it's 2006; I can still remember us losing out to Germany in the World Cup bidding process and now it has come to pass: many prostitutes will descend upon Deutschland and, you know, what they do ... normally hang out near where I live ... apparently):

"Last night saw the finale to the QLL season.

First up was the final of Brain of London. Jesse and Ian were both in the final four competing against perennial champion Kevin Ashman and Mike Billson. The game soon developed into a battle between Ian and Kevin with the players remaining within a point of each other throughout, and being level entering the final round. Unfortunately in the final round Kevin scored 2 points to Ian's 1 and hence won the game by the narrowest of margins - 13 to 12. Jesse finished 3rd with a very respectable 7 whilst Mike Billson got 4. Commiserations to Ian and Jesse, although getting to the final is a magnificent achievement in itself, while Ian's display on the night was superb. I'm sure for both it will be the first of many long runs in this competition.

So, the season ends and I think it can safely be said that this has been the breakthrough season for BHs. After the disappointment of our relegation from Division I a few years ago, this year we've proved beyond any doubt that we have more than the quality required to thrive in the big league. Sadly in the end it wasn't quite enough to win our inaugural title but I'm sure BHs will be back next and in future seasons."

So well done to Ian for running The Ashman so very close. And to Jesse for not coming last.

But I didn't go. I went to a pub quiz. A special pub quiz. More will be revealed after a few weeks, but let's just say I talked crap for a few hours and wondered at the rubbishness of the tone of my voice. It needs ... steroids, perhaps?

I have been wondering whether we should change our name. The melodrama of the nomenclature is getting to me. To the Heartbreakers? Then there's always We Will Crush You. How about The Monster Squad? No, The Gin-Gan-Goonies. Wait, The Titanic Transformers!!! No, I've got it: Sarah Water's Gang of Lesbitarians. Yes, that makes me happy. As happy as that girl in Tipping the Velvet after she has a wee-wooh with that lady and her peeetowwww. Hey, it's time for my medication. Til next time.

(I would do a BH quiz but it says "The disk media is not recognised. It may not be formatted", which is no good at all. This means all my quizzes are stuck back at home home and I will probably have to write a new one tonight. And I was going to spend the time reading Arena magazine and The Believer and unwrapping some new DVDs and CDs I bought with the help of a silky craft knife. Craft knife, I love you. But, the best laid plans of mice and me etc.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

I am so good it hurts

The headline is tongue-in-cheek and lashed in irony and peppered with flippancy. And obviously, I will do my best to make sure you really do think that I am so good it gives me agonising pains in my abdomen just from thinking about the bulging fact-sacks crammed in my cranium in the next few paragraphs. Perhaps, I am trying to confuse you.

Anyway, last week I did go through with the onanistic exercise that I promised to do a few months ago.

I played myself on the buzzer against both teams on UC to see just how I would do, minus the factor of studio light pressures and choking-chokingness.

Get this: when I slapped a cushion, i.e. the buzzer, and screamed out the answer before they did (man, I sound silly) that meant I got the starter and therefore the chance to answer the bonuses that followed. When they got a starter before me I obviously didn't try and score with their bonuses. BECAUSE THAT'S NOT HOW THE GAME WORKS. My special game; my futile, pointless exercise. La-dee-dah.

So how did I do? Well, I won *fist pumping and air guitar solos going everywhere*.

I scored 260 to their (Trinity College and SOAS) 155.

I got 14 starters to their 11, and 120 bonus points to their 45.

Of course, what I propose is that you get solo-quizzers play against university teams in some weird version of Blockbusters but with academic questions and the like.

And, of course, this will never ever happen. I slap myself across the face for thinking of it. Even if the spectacle is both amusing and interesting.

Now, why don't you try it? Go on, pretty please. You know, sometimes, you just have to know how comparatively good you are, and have the brutal, beautiful statistics to back you up in your priggish, self-righteous triumph.

The Regrets Burn Like Embers
The Trinity College, Cambridge, team are an impressive quartet, but then they do have three PhD students. And mature students are often the crucial factor in teams winning UC.

Many of my quiz league team-mates were undergraduates when we failed to win the show (and after doing so well) and when we see mature students hog the glory, it pains the heart in a somewhat regretful way.

I was only 20! I scream in the night when the bad dreams have left me sweating and punching the bedstead, with "I coulda been contender" murmurs winding down in volume until my lips were merely mouthing the act of chewing hot pizza. If I had a bedstead that is.

But fair do's. After graduating, we should have waited until our life was drifting aimlessly and decided to do an art history or English PhD (er, yes, I did consider it once ... a few years ago) before applying to the show. Then we would have crushed all that stood before us and I would have spent an inordinate cackling like Mumm-Ra or Skeletor or some other evil cartoon figure I have just dredged up from my infant memory. Wait. Yep, I'd go with a Megatron cackle actually, with a bit of a Galvatron lilt on occasion.

Hey, I jest. I'm a jester. With bells on.

Don't take a word of this seriously. Please. It's all fun (he says before going back to reading the Chambers Sports Factfinder).

It's BH #62, and yes I am thinking about the headline for the old sixty-niner ... so you've been warned

Here's the quiz. The one you have been waiting for all your life; if, that is, you happened to be a mayfly with Methusaleh-like longevity.

I am also reminded that Masoquizm is scheduled for May 27, NOT May 28, which is a Sunday. As you know, it is against the law to have buzzerquizzes on Sunday. Should one take place on the Sabbath, who knows what the terrible consequences may be. We may, for instance, spontaneously combust or turn into natterjack toads. Perhaps, it is better if we never know.

However, it may be that I am actually riddling this blog with factual inaccuracies just to draw my readership out of the woodwork, so they can be exposed in the plain light of day and enable me to make a raft of in-jokes and sly winks with them in mind. Ha ha, you fell into my trap. Let the japes begin...

(By the way, I've had a haircut and the enormous weight that has been shifted off my head may be making me feel a bit strange or at least make me write like one who has flown over a cuckoo's nest. But you know, it was the winter hair. Now I feel emboldened enough to leave the house with a mere polo shirt and jeans on - whoops forgot the shoes - AFTER 7.30pm in the evening. I did happen past the Silver Jews queue a minute ago and asked a couple of touts for a few prices and they both £30. They must have a hive mind. I am tempted to go but realise I have an gigantic raft of work to do. Who knows. I might change my mind in the next half an hour and miss University Challenge. Lord have mercy.)

1 Who was the principal editor of the Vedomosti, the first newspaper printed in Russia?
2 What parliament was dissolved by Oliver Cromwell on April 20, 1653 and was reassembled after the Protectorate on May 7, 1659?
3 With whom did Louis Pasteur complete the first tes on pasteurization in April 1862?
4 Who succeeded Lester B Pearson as Prime Minister of Canada in 1968?
5 Sverre Sigurdsson was king of what country from 1184 to 1202?
6 George W Bush met which Chinese President at the White House on April 20?
7 Which country's army recently freed three ministers taken hostage by villagers in El Mutun, the world's largest iron ore deposit?
8 What country is currently home to the PMU-18 (Project Management Unit) scandal, a multi-million dollar political corruption scandal at its Ministry of Transport?
9 What international airport was once widely known as Lod Airport, due to its location 15km SE of Tel Aviv?
10 Relations governing what two countries are to be implemented using the new "Fifteen Favourable Policies"?
11 Given the scientific name Bos taurus indicus, what animals are sometimes known as "humped cattle" and are better adapted to tropical environs than domestic breeds?
12 What large, dark-coated ox of the hilly areas of S Asia and SE Asia are also called seladang or Indian bison, which is technically incorrect?
13 The Sweetbay flower is a member of which family?
14 Dr Tom J Honeyman, a director of the Glasgow Art Gallery, became famous in 1952 for his purchase of what Salvador Dali work?
15 The Beer-Lambert law is concerned with what field of science?
16 Who arrived in Durban on September 1, 1870 with £3000 his aunt had lent him?
17 The Oppenheimer family became the major shareholders in which world famous companies, Sir Ernest, his son Harry and grandson Nicky all holding the chairmanship?
18 What is the largest tributary of the Orange River in South Africa?
19 Where did a massacre of five anti-KKK Maoist Comunist Workers Party activists happen in North Carolina on November 3, 1979?
20 Abbreviated SOC, what is the idea of integrating all components of a computer into a single integrated circuit?
21 What two-word term describes the region at the back of the head where the base of the skull meets the spine?
22 What is the homogenous, clear jelly-like substance that fills cells?
23 What name was given to the civil war in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the years 1648-1654 that took its name from the Ukrainian Cossack leader?
24 Potop in the native language, what term is assigned in the history of Poland to the series of 17th century wars which left the country in ruins?
25 The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) was formed by a merger of which two unions in 1990?
26 Who is the current general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union?
27 The Mystical model and the Phasing model, the latter defined by Robert Moore, are the two general schools of thought on the nature of what New Age and occult phenomenon?
28 Ry Tanindraza nay malala o (Oh, our Beloved Fatherland) is the national anthem of what country?
29 What system of rapid calculation, similar to Vedic mathematics, was developed by an eponymous Russian engineer in order to keep his mind occupied in a Nazi concentration camp?
30 The Millenium Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge over the Moraca river, was officially opened on July 13, 2005 on what country's National Day?
31 Which Jewish-Italian physicist, an early assistant of Fermi, became notorious for his voluntary move to the USSR in 1950 where his continued his research on the decay of the muon and on neutrinos, and had a prestigious prize instituted in his memory in 1995?
32 Which village in France's Ain departement is known for its pink sparkling wine and for its copper factory, the only one of its kind in France?
33 What is a Mowag Piranha?
34 Co-author of the book Seven Summits, which owner of Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah was the first person to climb to the summits of the tallest peaks on all seven continents and is the oldest person to have climbed Mount Everest?
35 At which battle on April 24, 1547, did Emperor Charles V defeat the forces of the Schmalkaldic League under Elector John Frederick of Saxony?

Answers to BH #62
1 Konigstein Castle 2 Treaty of Maguan 3 Quecha 4 Tacitus 5 Quaestor 6 Eos 7 Amilcare Ponchiellli 8 Chippendales dancers 9 Montserrat 10 Kammhuber Line 11 Superfecundation 12 Gerhard von Scharnhorst 13 Ge'ez or gez 14 Halite 15 Michael Faraday 16 Dante Gabriel Rossetti 17 Ardashir I or Artaxerxes 18 Miss Jean Brodie 19 Toyen 20 Max Ernst

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A momentary lapse in posts

Well, okay, a weekend long one.

Several factors including having no access to the internet and having friends visit from far overseas, or more truthfully, Wales, contributed to this unfortunate blogging stoppage.

In fact, only today I have got internet access in my own bedroom for the first time in six months of London living.

You would have thought this would signal a mighty upsurge in content, but as I feared I have spent all the time surfing aimlessly, and downloading songs from iTunes (six months off Mr Jobs's baby and returning with a vengeance) and Epitonic. This does not bode well for my time-management habits or my credit card bills. I thought this might happen, but did I prevent myself from coming to such a pass? Oh no. Back to the bad old habits.

I am now recovered and will resume service tomorrow. I promise. There are several quiz things in the pipeline, but I am bound by common decency and vows of top secrecy from revealing them. Trust me. They are actually quite interesting.

However, I am reminded that one all-day event is also coming up: the QLL's National Team Quiz Festival at the Counting House on June 10. I do hope to attend, and do far better in the Individual Rally competition this time. I say "far better"; I mean actually pay attention and not have a weak, warped brain on the day.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Oh Go On Then ... Have Another BH quiz #61

I am feeling haggard and drained after a night of setting more BH quizzes.

And yet, the body of general knowledge remains far from conquered or even assimilated in significant proportions after ten years. Yes, I have just peeped into the abyss. Not quite 4.48 Psychosis time, but it sure feels like it sometimes.

The Lean Season
It is as you may have noticed the close-season for regular quizzing, so the accounts of competition derring-do and defeated despair will be scarce until September time.

Indeed, if you were a league quizzer you could adopt the Green Day song that refers to the aforementioned month as your anthem and scream and sigh it until you be hoarse.

But the individual competitions never cease in quizland. People have Brain of Britain recordings coming up (see Stainer and Bayley): good luck to them and may they not return from T in the Park the day before a Brain of Britain semi-final and wander into a recording dazed and confused and an hour late, and then discover that their brains have lost 50 per cent of its ready access knowledge.

Future tourneys
Next month sees's Normanton GP as well as the second Masoquizm (we do unexpurgated American NAQT toss-up and bonus sets and find out we don't know enough about the works of Theodore Dreiser) in Oxford on (fingers crossed) May 28. You heard a speculative date my fellow British quizzers. And you know there's nothing like a buzzerquiz to get the blood flowing (and boiling).

Thus, all hail of us must hail the welcome return of Buzzerquiz and Rob Linham (hi Rob) and his bright and shiny new site. (I do think I've been using the adjectives "bright and shiny" too much lately, and in a far too flippant manner). He and his supreme editing, organisational and setting skills have been sorely missed.

Then, of course, there is the World Quizzing Championship in June. The big kahuna. I won it once you know. I don't think I will win it for some time and even when I reach my peak (I'm guessing 35-40), I'm sure some amazing and awe-inspiring talent possibly from India, hey, maybe even China will burst through and make us feel all old and stupid.

However, I hadn't noticed how bloody close they were until someone mentioned it the other day. They have been brought forward (well, I knew this last year) and I will soon ignore my stacks of brain-stimulating fictional literature for an entire month and dive deep into reference book and question file land.

I am both exhilirated and weary already just thinking about it. At times like these, you forget to do social things and indulge in a productive and joyous organic lifestyle. You stare at the books and bits of paper you have collected and go a little bit crazy. Almost Norman Bates crazy.

Yet I can assure you if my mother does pop her clogs in the next few months I will not seat her in the cellar and start dressing up in skirts and greying wigs.

If I do I blame it all on quiz. That will be my legal defence at least. Quiz will be the end of me, mark my nutty little words.

I feel like laughing now. Imagine me laughing right now, in fact. Listen to the music of despair.

(I have been thinking that my internet persona is properly deranged, and it is a tad. But in real life I'm just tapping away at the computer keyboard keeping it all in my mind and using this blog as the cathartic outlets. God bless blogs.)

1 From which castle did captured French general Henri Giraud escape from Nazi captivity in April 1942?
2 Japan and The Qing Empire signed what "unequal treaty" in April 1895 that ended the First Sino-Japanese War?
3 Waywash and Wanp'una are the two main dialect groups of which language?
4 Which historian wrote the work Germania in around 98AD?
5 Which elected officials or magistrates of the Roman Republic supervised the treasury and financial affairs of the state, its arms and officers?
6 In Greek mythology, who was the Titan goddess of the dawn who rose from her home at the edge of Oceanos to herald her brother Helios, the sun?
7 Which Italian composer wrote his first symphony at the age of ten and is known for his operas La Gioconda (1876) and I Lituani (1874), and the ballet Le due gemelle (1873)?
8 Entrepreneur Somen "Steve" Banerjee, who hung himself in a prison cell in 1994, and choreographer Nick DeNoia, whom he may have had shot in 1987, were responsible for developing which troupe of performers?
9 Often called the "Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" due to its resemblance to coastal Ireland and its early Irish settlers, which UK overseas territory is divided into three parishes: St Anthony, St Georges and St Peter?
10 Named after the Colonel who established it, what name was given to the German air defence system that was operational from July 1940?
11 What term describes the fertlisation of two or more ova from the same cycle by sperm from separate acts of sexual intercourse?
12 Which Prussian general, writer and Prussian army reformer (1755-1813) gave his name to the battlecruiser that was launched on October 3, 1936 and sunk in the Battle of North Cape on Boxing Day 1943?
13 What ancient language, developed in the Ethiopian Highlands of the Horn of Africa, became the language of the Ethiopian Highlands of the Horn of Africa and uses a writing system called Fidel in Ethiopia and remains in use as a liturgical language?
14 What is the mineral form of sodium chloride commonly known as rock salt?
15 Who gave the series of lectures called The Chemical History of a Candle that was the origin of the Royal Institution's Christmas lectures for young people?
16 Who painted 1868's Jane Morris (The Blue Silk Dress)?
17 Which founder of the Sassanid dynasty in 221AD built his now ruined palace south of Shiraz in Iran?
18 The James Gillespie High School for Girls teacher Christina McKay was the model for which fictional character?
19 Known for such lithographs as 1932's Two Girls with Flowers, which Czech painter and member of the surrealist movement was born Marie Cerminova in 1902?
20 Which surrealist artist used the alter ego Loplop in his paintings that took the form of a bird he suggested was an extension of himself stemming from an early confusion of birds and humans, and was seen in the title of such works as his collage Loplop presents Andre Breton?

Answers to BH #60
1 John, Duke of Bedford 2 Eldfell 3 Chad 4 Tunisia 5 Santa Sabina or Santa Sabina all'Aventino 6 a) Chief Superintendent b) Chief Inspector c) Assistant Chief Constable 7 Empire 8 Schiltron 9 Dubai 10 Richard Serra 11 Sears Tower 12 Victor Laloux 13 Mita 14 Fever of unknown origin 15 Lord Chief Justice 16 Rikishi 17 Thomas Lubanga 18 Tequila, vodka 19 Boxster 20 Aurangzeb 21 Earl of Ulster 22 Cley windmill 23 Brabham BT46B 24 British Racing Motors (BRM) 25 Taghairm 26 Indonesia 27 Net Book Agreement 28 Royal Worcester Porcelain Factory 29 Redwall 30 Isabelle Adjani 31 Lemonade 32 Bulgaria 33 Alkenes 34 Brainstorming 35 Frankfurt(-am-Main)